The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) ruled that the human rights of a former death row prisoner were violated by a flawed trial and conviction that at one point resulted in him being hours away from execution.
Kevin Cooper was convicted in 1983 of murdering Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their daughter Jessica and houseguest Christopher Hughes in California. The IAHCR ruled that Cooper’s case was marred by racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defense counsel and unfair proceedings including evidence destruction, evidence tampering and planting of false evidence.
In 2004, Cooper came within four hours of being executed. Although a federal court ruled last year that the death penalty in California is unconstitutional and the state has not executed anyone in nearly a decade, Cooper remains on death row.
“Mr. Cooper’s case shows that the death penalty system is broken beyond repair, and the risk of executing a wrongfully convicted person is very real,” said James Clark, senior death penalty campaigner for Amnesty International USA.
Since 1973, 155 people have been exonerated from death row in the United States.
Although Cooper’s conviction was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the five dissenting judges expressed serious concern. Judge William Fletcher wrote an 82-page dissent that stated “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”